Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bequia in May 2006 and April 2007

Leaving St. Lucia it was a great beam reach and then broad reach sail until we reached the south end of St. Vincent; then we were close hauled, right on the bottom of the red, tight as we could get it until we reached Bequia. Winds ranged from 22 kts to 30 kts all day; seas 7-ft to 10-ft. Great day of sailing, at last. We arrived in Port Elizabeth on May 23, 2006, and anchored at
13.00.505N 61.14.355W . We had traveled 500 NM since leaving the BVI on May 12, with lots of island hopping.

When we arrived in Bequia, we were approached by a boat boy right at the harbor entrance wanting to "help" us with a mooring. We told him we were going to anchor. Then we tried hailing Daffodil's on the VHF to get a mooring ball in their area. We plan to have them deliver fuel to our boat tomorrow, so we wanted to be nearby. Daffodil's said they were sending someone out to assist us with the mooring. The mooring balls here do not have any type of pennant attached. Someone comes out in a small boat and takes your line and ties it off on the bottom side of the mooring ball. Anyway, some guy shows up in a dinghy and tells us that there was a mistake and that Daffodil's is full and doesn't have a mooring available for us. He told us to hail African on VHF channel 68 and get on a mooring on the other side of the harbor.

Bill spent several minutes trying to hail the guy called African. Several people answered and someone said that Wild Larry would be out to help us with the mooring at African's mooring ball field.

While all that was going on, another guy came up way too close to the side of the boat and tried to talk to me while Bill was on the radio. I told him to leave us alone right now. He then sped up and went in front of our boat, turned crosswise to block our progress, and came to a stop. I started yelling at him and turning the boat trying to avoid hitting him. Then he came back near the cockpit and tried talking again. I yelled at the top of my voice for him to "get the f**k away from our boat or we were going to be hit him." He looked really pissed off, but he finally left. Those of you reading this, if you know me, then you know just how loud I can yell when really pissed off. This happened while Bill was on the radio, so everyone in the anchorage heard me yelling on the radio. Maybe now the boat boys will stay away from our boat.

Wild Larry showed up in a bright pink "go-fast" boat and helped Bill tie off on a mooring ball. Bill just didn't feel right about the whole process; so when he saw a man with African on the side of his boat helping another boat moor near us, Bill called him over to our boat. Sure enough, we had been hijacked; the ball we were moored on did not belong to African. So we moved over to one of African's moorings. We are much happier because this ball looks much better maintained.

We then went ashore to the Whaleboner Bar for a cold drink, and a short walk around the beach bars. This is again an island that we have not visited in 20 years. It has changed quite a bit, but still the same lovely place that we remember.

The Whaleboner Bar has a huge whale rib bone forming the bar counter. The bar stools are made from whale vertabrae. The entrance from the beach is framed by 2 whale ribs. This bar has been here for decades upon decades. They are not making these type items from whales anymore, so relax.

Bequia has a strong whaling history. The men would go out in these tiny boats that they built locally. They would gather round and spear a whale and then tow it back to the island for slaughter. They used every bit of the whale; it was not over-kill like the Japanese still do. Bequia still holds a license that would allow them to kill up to 4 whales per year, but the skills are being lost as the older generation ages. They have not gone out to hunt a whale in a couple of years. Their long whaling history might now be finished.

Enjoyed the traditional lobster pizza at Mac’s on our first night here. Lobster season ended April 31, so the local restaurants were trying to use up all the lobsters in their live tanks. They are allowed to sell those, but they cannot harvest any more from the sea until October. Anyway, our pizza was thickly covered in lobster. It was delicious; we could not finish it all and hated to throw away that last piece. When we returned to Bequia in 2007, lobster pizza was no longer on the menu at Mac's. That was the end of an era. Lobster has now been so over-fished throughout the Caribbean that Mac's can no longer serve their famous lobster pizzas. At least we have our fond memories of this delicacy.

We next visited Bequia on April 24, 2007; and again anchored in Admiralty Bay. This time we sailed down the eastern (windward) side of St. Vincent on our passage from St. Lucia to Bequia. The waves were 10 feet and pleasant enough for most of the trip, but we got too close to land near the southeastern tip of St. Vincent and it was shallow. The waves rolling in off the Atlantic were large but comfortable in the deep water, but the waves were building one upon another in the shallower water and it became unpleasant. That lasted about 2 hours and then we were back to pleasant sailing. So we learned a lesson: keep at least one mile to two miles offshore if sailing on the eastern side of St. Vincent. At only one-half mile offshore you will experience nasty sailing conditions.

I trailed two fishing lines all day yesterday (54 miles) and never had a bite. Today I trailed two fishing lines most of the day (about 50 miles) without a bite. And then we had two bites within a minute! I went below to the head and when I came back into the cockpit there was Bill with my fishing line all over the place. Seems there had been a strike by something large on the fishing line being trailed from the port side. The entire lure was gone and the hand reel had actually exploded into tiny pieces from the pressure of the fishing line wrapped around it. All that remained of that gear was the bungee cord and the fishing line and the metal wire that used to hold the lure! And that was my brand new favorite lure!

Less than a minute later there was a strike on the fishing line being trailed on the starboard side. This time the line snapped right at the hand reel. The line was 100 pound test strength, so something quite large must have hit that lure. So, two fishing lures and 150 meters of fishing line, leaders, etc.--- all gone within a minute. And no fish to show for it! Bad enough to lose the fishing gear but I really wish we could have been able to at least see the fish that took my gear.

When we arrived in Bequia we found Dennis and Allayne on AUDREY PAIGE, and Al and Joan on BREAK AND RUN. We are anchored between their two boats. Dennis and Allayne are friends from the marina in Trinidad last summer. We knew that Dennis and Allayne were in Bequia several weeks ago and hoped that they would still be here. We really enjoy their company. Great folks. We met Al and Joan in Guadeloupe when we shared dinner. Another guy, Richard (and Beth) on SLOW DANCING came by and introduced himself because he recognized our SSCA burgee and he is also a SSCA member. All these people plan to stay here in Bequia for a week or two or more, so hopefully we will be seeing them all several times.

FYI, we are now in the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That is a rather long country name, so it is usually abbreviated to SVG. We opted not to stop at St. Vincent because there is too much thievery there. So our first stop in SVG is Bequia, which we truly love. Luckily, it is also a clearance port so we were not forced to stop in St. Vincent. Bequia has a special charm. All the islands that we will be visiting in the next few weeks belong to SVG – there are quite a few of them and we will be visiting only those that we prefer. We will skip a few of the islands that hold no special interest to us for whatever reason. We will clear out of this island chain country when we reach Union Island.

Bill had a bit of sticker shock when we visited the local vegetable market. I bought 4 small tomatoes, 2 medium cucumbers, and 3 carrots for a total cost $30 EC. Bill’s face was had an incredulous expression! That converts to $11.11 USD. Food is a bit pricey here on Bequia.

On Wednesday afternoon we took a taxi tour of Bequia with people from 2 other cruising boats. Our tour guide was a local man named Curtis. Curtis was born on the island and is about 60 years old. He said that his heritage is French, Scottish and Portuguese. His accent definitely had a Scottish tinge. According to our sailing guide, there were a lot of Scots brought to this island when it was briefly under British control. Neither of us remembers how or why the Portuguese came to this island. It was good to talk with a local resident for several hours; learn so much more than from the guide books.

Bequia has a strong whaling history. A whaling man named Wallace moved from the USA to Bequia during the 1800s and taught the locals how to build small whaleboats; they have been catching whales ever since. The IWC has granted Bequia the right to harvest 4 whales per year, but many years they don’t get any at all. Everything is still done is the traditional manner, no modern ships or conveniences. Curtis was lamenting that all the excitement for the islanders has gone out of whaling and he doesn’t think it will continue much longer. There are very few people still alive who know how to do this work. Plus, the whaling season lasts only February through April; so it cannot be a full-time job for anyone. BTW, 60% of the men on Bequia are unemployed. They and their families subsist pretty much on what they can garner from the sea and grow on their land.

In the very old days people would light fires on the island when they spotted whales from the hills. But this made the location of the whales known to the whaling ships from the US that were nearby, so the islanders eventually changed to using mirrors to signal whale sightings. The larger the mirror, the better. People would go outside and move their bedroom mirrors to glint in the sun to let other islanders and the whalers in the little whaleboats around Bequia know that whales had been spotted. They would move several steps while the glinting mirror to correspond to the whales’ movements---right, left, up or down to correspond with east, west, north or south---to guide the little Bequian whalers to find the whales. You could see mirrors glinting all over the island when whales were spotted. Eventually people got VHF radios and they changed to this modern method of communicating the locations of the whales. But Green Peace came down and would thwart the local whalers and caused dangerous encounters (remember, these local islanders only have very small boats with harpoons). Then they changed to cell phones; the method of whale notification used today.

The whalers harpoon a whale from these tiny whaleboats, and haul it back by rowing to a nearby tiny island where the whale is butchered. They used to butcher the whales at Petit Nevis, but now the whale processing is performed at Semplers Cay in Friendship Bay. Every resident on Bequia gets a share of each whale, but not everyone eats whale meat any more. Curtis said that he had not eaten whale meat since he was about 25 years old because he just does not feel comfortable about it. He thinks that the whaling should stop.

When we first visited Bequia while we were on a Windjammer cruise back in the mid-1980s, we bought some scrimshaw pieces. Scrimshaw is banned today. True scrimshaw was carved from the teeth of the sperm whales. Sperm whales are never killed any more; they only kill humpback whales. Humpback whales are baleen whales and do not teeth, so no more scrimshaw. (Okay, to our sons Trey and Aaron: do you have any idea where your scrimshaw necklaces are today? I still have mine.)

Our tour also included a visit to a pottery place located in an old sugar mill at Spring plantation. We enjoyed seeing the old building and the methods of production and the pottery was quite nice, but not something we need on a boat. Thought about buying some as gifts for relatives but storing it and hauling it back home would create problems. So, sorry everyone; no unique pottery gifts from us.

We wanted to go see Moonhole, but Curtis would not bring us out there. The road to Moonhole is terrible. Plus, you must make prior arrangements with a certain couple if you want to visit there. Moonhole is an isolated community founded by the late American architect Tom Johnson. The houses are really different. The houses grow out of the rocks without straight lines or right angles. They have huge arches. There normally is no glass in the windows, and there is no electricity. But the breeze is constant on that point of the island so the temperatures are comfortable. The houses have fantastic views and very nice patios. It is a very private place and is a special kind of vacation home for the right people. The original house was built under a natural arch known as “Moonhole.” It was abandoned when a huge boulder fell from the ceiling and crushed the empty bed. Jim and Sheena Johnson have a bar there and offer limited tours by prior arrangement only. Moonhole is on the hill overlooking directly onto the water but is not accessible from the water because it is too rough and rocky out there. I have no idea who supposedly frequents this bar since there is no way to get out there.

From Bequia this time we will go to Mustique, island of the ultra-rich and celebreties.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be posted after we confirm that you are not a cyber stalker.